End Structural Racism and the Assault on Black People in the United States

Like all of you, we at Promundo are saddened and angered at the horrific killing of George Floyd in the United States (US), and for each Black person killed by police. We stand in solidarity with the Black community, Black Lives Matter, and with everyone who is in pain and is outraged by these chronic injustices.

It is long overdue to end the historical assault on America’s Black people. This is about the tragic and barbaric killing of one Black man in Minneapolis – and it is also about ending — now, the legacies and policies that systematically allow, and facilitate, the killing of Black people by police and individuals, in the US.

Nearly 8,000 people were killed by police between 2013 and 2019 in the United States; Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than White people. Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Atatiana Jefferson, Botham Jean, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, have been senselessly killed, and so many, many more. We say their names to remember them and others who have died at the hands of police; and we commit to taking anti-racist action.

Black women are both disproportionally targeted by violence and discrimination as well as white supremacy, while still often leading anti-racist resistance movements; fatal violence against transgender individuals also disproportionately affects transgender women of color – particularly Black transgender women.

Police violence occurs in a broader context of violence against Black people – historically unchallenged – through White silence, invalidation of the Black experience, and condemnations of Black and other people’s responses to violence against Black people, but not to the violence itself; and through the subtleties in everyday exchanges and interactions.

In 2019, Black people were 24 percent of those killed by police, despite being only 13 percent of the population; and men represent between more than 95 percent of those killed by police in the US – as well as 87 percent of law enforcement officials – illuminating a specific, pervasive racial profiling of Black men – who are killed disproportionately at the hands of other men, in a patriarchal and white supremacist policing system.

US incarceration policies inspired by a “war on crime” – shamefully and historically supported by both Democrats and Republicans – have led to generational cycles of Black men in particular being swept into a school-to-prison-pipeline. According to the US Department of Education in 2011-2012, of 49 million students enrolled in school, nearly 3.5 million were suspended out of school and 130,000 students were expelled; with Black students suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than White students. Black boys who are suspected or expelled are more likely to be incarcerated as adults. This racist cycle has resulted in the largest prison system in the world.

We must acknowledge this shameful reality: the US prison, police, and justice system is too often a system for repressing men, women, and families of color, and Black Americans in particular, who make up 40 percent of the incarcerated population, despite representing only 13 percent of US residents.

Promundo was founded exactly 23 years ago this month in Brazil to promote healthy masculinity, advance gender equality, and prevent violence. Our work began in favelas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with young men affected by gang violence, and with those harmed by police violence – particularly individuals of African descent. It included aims to understand and protest the ongoing police violence and historical legacies of slavery that affect Brazilians of African descent in specific ways. That tragic and egregious legacy of racism in Brazil continues. In 2019, Rio de Janeiro’s police killed more than 1,800 individuals, the vast majority Brazilians of African descent. Few if any charges were filed in any of the cases.

Inspired by that work in Brazil, our work in the US and around the world focuses on engaging with young and adult men – together with women and girls and individuals of all gender identities – to engage the media, schools, communities, and the health sector in promoting healthy masculinity, preventing violence, and advancing gender equality. In our work, our partnerships, and in conversation with the young men in our programs – we see again and again the harmful impact of racist narratives told of boys and young men of color – and we see in that work how they are often the primary targets of whatever disciplinary, psychological, and pharmaceutical weapons our social institutions can deploy.

This must end.

We must end our legacy of racism, indifference, hatred, and police brutality. We must elect leaders who take seriously and acknowledge the deep wounds in our country.

We must invest in creating greater opportunities for our children and need to end the punitive policies in our schools that target Black boys and girls, and children of color. We must invest in restorative justice and social services and need justice sector reform that ends harsh and unjust sentencing of Black men and women, and people of color. We urgently need to hold accountable law enforcement officers, for all excessive force, particularly against Black people and people of color. That means continuing to retool police training and police strategies, rethinking the policing system in our country, and reimagining how we invest in our communities. 

We need leaders of this country to end their racist and militaristic language, denigration of protestors, and denial of historical racial injustices. We call on federal government officials to denounce the racism and language of domination that the Administration uses on a daily basis, and we call on law enforcement at all levels to reject the President’s calls for use of violence against protestors, and instead to seek peaceful dialogue and justice for victims of police violence, and to take actions to end the cycle of violence and repression that has been synonymous with the policing of Black bodies in America.

So, today, and each day ahead, we urge action. If you can, donate for bail funds for protestors at The Bail Project. Support businesses owned by Black people, elevate and listen to Black voices, and fund organizers and organizations working to end police brutality today and every day.

At Promundo, we are committed to proactively anti-racist practices, including engaging in anti-racist training and continuing to include, in our work, a questioning of racist and discriminatory structures, in the US and around the world. We strive to center the voices of people and communities impacted by structural racism and discrimination, and affected by violence, whether in the United States or in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, or Brazil. We will continue to hold ourselves accountable for questioning inequalities in our internal practices as an organization and in work with our partners.

We have much work and healing to do as a country, and we have much to do to end the assault on Black people and people of color in the US. At Promundo, we will not rest until these long-standing social injustices are rectified.

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